Legislator: Pfizer can't complain about execution drug

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The legislator who drafted a law that keeps most of Arkansas’ lethal injection policy a secret said Tuesday that pharmaceutical companies have no standing to complain that prison officials will use their drugs in executions.

The Associated Press reported Monday that it appears Arkansas had obtained a paralytic drug made by a subsidiary of Pfizer for use in executions. Pfizer has said it doesn’t want its drugs used that way and that it has safeguards in place to prevent it from happening.

Rep. Doug House, a Republican from North Little Rock, said Tuesday that while Pfizer may complain about the possible “unauthorized use” of one of its products, it and other drugmakers cannot file legitimate complaints with the Arkansas Department of Correction.

“I don’t think so. We bought it legally, fair and square,” House said. Any recourse, he said, would be with middlemen who passed the drugs on to the state. “That’s between them and their distributors.”

Pfizer spokeswoman Rachel Hooper said Tuesday the company was communicating with states to remind them its products are intended to save lives, not end them. In April, the company published a position paper directing wholesalers and distributors to not share seven specific drugs with states intending to use them in executions.

“Pfizer makes its products solely to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” Hooper said in an email after AP identified one of its subsidiaries as the likely source of Arkansas’ vecuronium bromide.

The paralytic is part of a three-drug protocol in Arkansas, which has not executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and the difficulty of obtaining execution drugs.

Under the state guidelines, executioners would first use midazolam as a sedative, then paralyze the inmate to stop breathing, then administer potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Arkansas legislators last year passed the secrecy law, saying firms wouldn’t sell execution drugs to the state for fear that disclosure could lead to protests or boycotts.

House said Arkansas was not being hypocritical by agreeing to accommodate drug suppliers willing to help in executions, by granting them privacy, while at the same time not accommodating other companies that don’t want their products used in that way.

Because executions are legal, Arkansas has a right to use the drugs in a legal way.

“It’s like buying a car. Dodge cannot tell you, ‘You can buy this car, but I don’t want you driving the car to Memphis,'” House said.

The office of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge declined comment. The governor’s office did not reply to a request for comment.


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